PEI

New literacy program provides training, paid work in aquaculture industry

A new literacy program on P.E.I. provides essential skills for the workplace plus four weeks of paid work in the aquaculture industry. The pilot project started in August at Atlantic Aqua Farms in Georgetown, P.E.I.

11 participants in the pilot ranged in age from 18 to their 50s

One of the reasons for the pilot project is a shortage of workers in the aquaculture industry. (Submitted by the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance)

A new literacy program on P.E.I. provides essential skills for the workplace, plus four weeks of paid work in the aquaculture industry.

The program is called Essential Skills for Atlantic Fisheries P.E.I. and the pilot project started in August at Atlantic Aqua Farms in Georgetown, P.E.I.

"The project basically came from recognizing that there was a labour shortage in the fishing industry," said Jinny Greaves, executive director of the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance. 

"But that there are people in those rural coastal areas who wouldn't mind working and maybe haven't been connected to the workforce."

Greaves said the literacy alliance offers free tutoring for adults, children and youth, usually in public libraries, but this is the first time they've actually worked with an employer and done a direct service with an employer.

The training includes an introduction to the aquaculture industry. (Submitted by the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance)

"We've partnered with Workplace Learning P.E.I., they work with employers all the time and they are kind of the experts in this," Greaves said.

"We have contracted them to help us deliver the training."

Lots of skills

Emily Draper, 18, recently moved to Murray River, P.E.I., from Ontario and was one of 11 participants in the pilot.

"I heard about the program and I saw the long list of workplace skills and I just thought it would make a really good addition to my future employment," Draper said.

"The two main areas that we covered were employability skills, like teamwork and conflict resolution, and the other area was essential skills for the workplace like computer use and oral communication."

The project includes skills that will help the participants when they move into the workforce. (Submitted by the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance)

Draper said her classmates ranged from her age, to others in their 50s.

Draper admits she knew very little about aquaculture before joining the program. 

"Absolutely nothing, nothing at all, but now I have a much better understanding of mussel farming and aquaculture in general."

Emily Draper, in the blue shirt and pink sneakers, recently moved to P.E.I. from Ontario. (Submitted by the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance)

'Very impressive'

The class had a chance to tour some aquaculture operations.

"It was actually very impressive, the scale of the industry is amazing," Draper said. 

"We got to see up close and personal the whole mussel farming process from start to finish."

The participants will receive one week of paid on-the-job training and then four weeks on a paid work placement. (Submitted by the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance)

Draper and her classmates now move on to a week of paid on-the-job training, followed by four weeks of paid work as mussel sockers.

When the program ends, she hopes to get a job with Atlantic Aqua Farms as a seasonal worker.

"There's a bit of turnover in the industry so they're looking for workers," Draper said.

"I don't mean to boast, but I think I'll get the job."

The participants visited several aquaculture operations. (Submitted by the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance)

Draper said she would recommend the training program.

"Especially people who are coming from away and don't really know anything about the whole fishery industry or how much of that is important in the P.E.I. culture," Draper said.

"It's a great way to meet a lot of people."

Graduation ceremony

The class in Georgetown will even have its own graduation ceremony at the end of the training.

"Some of these people haven't graduated high school, they have never gone through a graduation ceremony, so it's really exciting for them," Greaves said.

"That's kind of the hope, that they have more confidence, they have more employability skills."

The pilot project also included training for employees at Atlantic Aqua Farms, who will now be mentors for the new workers. (Submitted by the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance)

The pilot project also included training for six employees at Atlantic Aqua Farms, who will now be mentors for the new workers.

The Atlantic project received $2 million in funding over 33 months, including about $300,000 for P.E.I., through the Government of Canada's National Essential Skills Initiatives.

It is led by the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick, in partnership with literacy groups across the region.

There will be another round of the training in early 2020.

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About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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